Covenant College has a nice feature on our co-edited book, Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010).
Co-editor Jay Green is a history professor at Covenant and the piece focuses on his contribution to the volume.
Comprised of over a dozen essays, Confessing History seeks to explore and develop a deeper understanding of history as a vocation from a Christian point of view. “The larger question of the integration of faith and learning is in some respects quite old,” says Green. “This is probably the first book on this kind of topic in the last fifteen years.” Part of what makes this collection unique is the diversity of the contributing scholars. “We have Lutherans, Episcopalians, Catholics, Baptists and so forth, all approaching this topic from varied points of view.”
The struggle to integrate faith and vocation is foundational at Covenant, and Green sees Confessing History as an extension of that process. “More than anything the audience of this book is made up of students and teachers looking to reconcile their faith with their work as historians.” Green goes on to clarify that the aim is not solely for faith to leave its mark on history as a vocation but also for history to leave its mark on faith. “It cuts both ways,” he says.
Essay topics range from the problem of preaching through history to general discussions of history as a vocation. Green’s chapter, titled “Public Reasoning by Historical Analogy,” addresses the tendency in contemporary media to “make sense of the present by appealing to past analogues.” During the debates on the war in Iraq, for example, “if you were a supporter of the war you referenced WWII. If you were opposed to the war you referenced Vietnam. Neither of these analogies was very helpful,” says Green, noting that this method of analogy “now tends to distort as much as it clarifies.” In light of such misuse, the chapter explores the historian’s role in public discourse.
The three editors, Fea, Green and Miller, studied together under Dr. John Woodbridge at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. “We’ve talked for quite a long time about doing some kind of joint project,” says Green. For Confessing History, the editors worked to bring the independent essays into accord so that the book could be read as one complete collaborative work. “We tried to give each author license to explore the topic in their own way, but also to bring it all back around to the idea of vocation.”
Having previously taught some of the essays, Green intends to assign chapters of Confessing History in one of his courses. He hopes that students who read it will find something that “helps them clarify some aspects of themselves.” He does not plan to assign the entire book, but is excited that, “like with a collection of short stories, someone can pick it up and find three or four pieces that resonate to where they are right now.”
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